Spicks and Specks could be coming back permanently
MUSIC fans who tune in to Spicks and Specks on Sunday might notice something different about host Adam Hills - he's no longer that clean-cut chap from the telly.
Indeed for months, the multi-talented stand-up comedian turned radio and TV host has been sporting a beard that would make Ned Kelly feel positively pre-pubescent.
The fecund facial fuzz is a result of a commitment made on his popular UK comedy chat show The Last Leg to not shave it off until "Brexit is sorted".
One might suspect that Hills' wife, Melbourne performer Ali McGregor, has been working feverishly behind the scenes with the bickering political factions to resolve the thorny issue one way or the other so she can have her fresh-faced husband - widely regarded as one of the nicest guys in showbiz - back, but apparently that's not the case.
"She is genuinely going to be a little bit upset when the beard comes off," says Hills, relaxing in the Melbourne ABC offices while back to record four new episodes of the much loved music quiz show.
"I'm worried for the state of my marriage to be honest because I'm a bit of a goody-goody and I think she's liked looking like she's dating a bit of rough. So I think what's going to have to happen is when the beard comes off I'm going to have to become a bit of a bad boy to compensate. And unfortunately I can't do things like buy a Harley or wear leather jackets because it'll look like a midlife crisis. I might have to actually break a law."
With a UK general election next month, Hills is now back in the UK, where he has been based with McGregor and their two primary school aged daughters Maisie and Beatrice for the last few years.
The Last Leg, which started life as comedy companion to the 2012 London Paralympics, has gone from strength to strength and made Hills red-hot property as a TV host, MC and stand-up comedian.
But despite the lure of West End shows, watching the Great British Bakeoff and the prospect of meeting stars, the pull of friends, relatives and better work opportunities for McGregor proved irresistible and the family now calls Melbourne home again.
"There's only so much time you can buy by saying to your daughter 'I mean if we stay in London you might meet Daniel Radcliffe'," says Hills with a laugh.
"Like, I've met him a few times, but I don't know him well enough to invite him over for lunch just yet. But I did as many things as I could to keep them there."
Hills plans to split his time between the two countries, filming The Last Leg in 10-week blocks, and fitting in stand-up wherever he can, with a new show planned for next year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
But the recent trip to move the family back home also opened a rare window to revisit Spicks and Specks, which was one of the ABC's highest rating shows when it ran for seven seasons from 2005 until he and team captains Myf Warhurst and Alan Brough all agreed to pull the pin while still on top.
A one-off reunion show last year proved to be a hit, pulling more than 1.1 million views and becoming the national broadcaster's most popular show of the year.
The love that greeted the familiar banter between the three long-time mates, plus the cavalcade of local rock royalty falling over themselves to be a part of the show again, convinced all concerned that there was an appetite for more.
This year they have recorded four specials, the first of which screens on Sunday to coincide with Ausmusic month and features guest musicians Brian Mannix and Missy Higgins and comedians Rove McManus and Nina Oyama. Three more episodes will screen next year focused on the music from the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.
"I remember when we did the reunion special last year, afterwards, saying to them (Warhurst and Brough) 'I would be happy with a few of these a year, a couple of specials'. Which is what we've done this year. Logistically for me, but for all of us, I can't imagine we go back to doing 40 in a year. That's a long old slog. But if people enjoy them and want to watch them then I think we would at the very least consider doing another four specials next year. I don't know, maybe there's room for a series but if it was it wouldn't be 40, it would be a series of 10 or something. But I'm open to it."
It's also been a case of absence having made the heart grow fonder. A whole lot has happened in the music world since Hills last regularly fired posers at his captains and their guests, from Korean novelty acts to the rise and rise of Ed Sheeran.
"What we found was there's a whole decade of music we've not talked about," Hills says. "After 280 episodes it did kind of feel like 'oh we're covering the same ground again'. Whereas the 2010s special was 'oh my God we've never talked about Gangnam Style'. There's a whole dance craze haven't covered. Maybe we needed 10 years for music to refresh itself and give us something new to talk about."
As a veteran of decades of sometimes bruising stand-up, Hills is happy to let the audience dictate the future of Spicks and Specks, just as he will with The Last Leg, which also screens on the ABC. Rumour had it that Hills and co-hosts Josh Widdicombe and Adam Brooker might farewell the satirical, live weekly UK show at next year's Tokyo Paralympics but Hills says that they'd be crazy to call time when there's so much comedy gold to potentially mine from the US presidential elections next November.
"Like any good comedian we will just listen to the audience and let them tell us," he says. "You know when you've gone on for too long - if they're not laughing anymore then get off stage. There's nothing worse than watching the comedian try and find that big punchline and they're still on stage for another 20 minutes."
Spicks and Specks Ausmusic Special, Sunday, 7.40pm, ABC